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Bad gear, VS good gear.....Vs how good are you?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by vinniesrs, Jul 13, 2003.

  1. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    I am a firm believer that it's the ear, not the gear, that makes your sound. I'm interested to hear your viewpoints on this, and stories regarding crappy gear you have had to work with.
    I will concede that good gear is invaluable, and in no way am I trying to say that ssl should stop making consoles, but I think there are a lot of home studio guys out there who think they need a $300,000 console to make a great recording.
    I am simply looking for information regarding YOUR opinions on skills Vs gear.

    I feel that those of us who may be discouraged by the amazing mic's and pre's and other stuff thay can't afford, might be encouraged by what kind of recordings could be made with "prosumer" gear and top notch skills.

  2. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    I think a skilled engineer is essential but what I really like about working with nice pro level equipment is that at that point you have absolutely no excuse for ending up with a crappy sounding product
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Congratulations on being appointed as a moderator. I have said many times that about 80% can be achived with prosumer gear.. and I thank my lucky stars that I started out on it.. I now have a reference, know the difference and have a clue (I think). So many people who start out in a top level studio develop an attitude, much like that of a person what has never had to worry how they were going to pay the rent or make the car payment (no clue). As I said, about 80% with todays prosumer gear, top end gear will give you about 95%. No one ever gets 100%, except sometimes Tom Petty.. Pure Pro gear is a no brainer for me.. I find it so easy to use it almost is not a challenge. I used to get so excited when I squeezed that last bit out of a cheeze piece.. It made me feel like I was doing something that most other people couldn't.. Plug a U87 into a Neve or a Millennia and a Manley EL OP and with very little effort, it sounds wonderful... Try that with a C1000s, a 3036 comp and a Mackie...
  4. route909

    route909 Guest

    I´m a hobbyist recorder with limited gear and budget. When I first started recording, after mostly making electronic music for some time, I didn´t have much gear at all, saving money to buy cheap mics and soundcards. It was a time of quickly learning what to do with the little gear I had.

    So one weekend I was fortunate to attend a recording session with my choir friends - they were making a record at a nearby church and the engineer was a friend of the family who works at the Swedish Television. He had brought some pretty quite nice gear (I didn´t know then, but I wasn´t allowed to touch the "expensive mics"): a pair of SONY C800G´s, six Neumann U87´s, a Mackie 1604 VLZ mixer and a really expensive ADAT recorder.

    It was a great experience and I loved being there, it got me all excited about the art and I started recording the choir (after the conductor reformed the choir to a mixed one) whenever we had a concert.

    The last concert we held (a couple of weeks ago, before going to Wales to compete in Llangollen´s international choir contest) was a kinda funky experience, and we held it to practice the songs for the trip. I made the recording for the conductor only, so she could hear what we should practice more. Didn´t wanna drag my entire computer rig there for that, so I recorded with small, light and cheap gear that could be fit into a bag. I used a pair of Line Audio CM2 cardioid small diaphragm mics ($200), a home built preamp and a cheap mini disc deck ($150).

    The entire gear list was about 1/60 the price of the rig used to record the choir two years ago and I didn´t do much to the placement of the mics.

    Now how did the totally different recordings in the same space with roughly the same choir sound? Have a listen yourself:

    Cheap (CM2 - ORTF)

    Expensive (C800G - A-B)

    I should add that I did use some post processing on my files: very light Timeworks 4080 reverb that actually matched the real space pretty well, some light and narrow boost at 20 KHz (+3dB or so) and low freq boost to compensate for the distance. The expensive recording was post processed in Pro Tools with I don´t know what.

    But I finished the concert CD the same night as we held it, while the expensive CD took a year and a half to complete.

  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    So many of us have listened to recordings that have been recorded using top end high dollar gear over the years that we have become accustomed to a particular sound. Over time the question of whether this sound is good or bad has been lost and it has just become accepted that "it" is "the" sound. This is the case with much of the vintage gear that so many of us lust after. The funny thing is, 30 or 40 years ago much of the stuff that has these days become so coveted, was the subject of much complaint. In these modern times we seek the coloration of the iron and tubes. In the past these items were grudgingly used by engineers who craved transparency. Coloration was looked upon as a form of "distortion". 30 years ago the best thing that could be said about a piece of equipment was "it is very transparent" or "it has a lack of coloration". Accuracy was the Holy Grail. Now days much of the "budget" gear available, is very transparent and exhibits low coloration.. and is disdained for these qualities. Sheesh! Some people are never happy!

    Nope never used it! Never heard it! I don't know nothin' about it.. It could be the best thing since sliced bacon! (really!) :D
  6. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    I still remember recording with a MAckie 2404, a Roland DM800 and a few mics.
    Today there are dozens of plugs, digital consoles available and nothing really big changed. MAybe 20%?
    Yes, ears and nice taste are a must.
  7. Marcus Black

    Marcus Black Guest

    Good topic! I have a very recent example of this. We just mixed the first single of an artist soon to be released. It´s a project that got pretty "hyped up" by the industry and nothing but the best was expected from my production. To the point, we recorded a "once, right through the song-guide-vocal" before I started producing the demo of the song. It was sang only to a piano (it´s a rock tune...) just, right on, no warm up no soundcheck, no nothing. And parts of the performance is of course brilliant !! And it´s recorded with a TLM-103 through a Behringer preamp. That just happened to be set up at the very moment the artist stopped by for guidevocals. When I had done some work on the track we recorded the "real" vocals using a Calreq RQP-3200 preamp and a U47. We ended up keeping the verses from the guide vocals, the magic just was there. Later we even changed some words in the lyric and switched between behringer and Calreq/U47 in the middle of a frase. Mixed and ready, you can´t really tell the difference, unless you know what to look for. The big difference when mixing were the s-sounds. The Behringer´s s-es were much harder to handle (could be the mic aswell...), and of course the U47 has a more open, soft and nice high-end. But still the difference is not astonishing! There´s a huge gap in the cost of the gear used in the different takes and this just proves what´s important to me, the performance!! ;)

    PS. From now on I record all my guide vocals properly !
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Yep! It seems that last 10 or 15% costs up to ten times as much! It's the law of diminishing returns.

    There are many examples of this.. no pressure seems to pull a better performance sometimes. And then there are instances like Frank Sinatra, who if it couldn't happen in two takes would get pissed and walk out. A guy had to be on the ball and get it right from the top with Frank. Or it would be his ass. No re takes, no "Can we do that once more?" ...."I got your once more, ... Hey Rocco, Show this guy once more!"

    Nope never used it! Never heard it! I don't know nothin' about it.. It could be the best thing since sliced bacon! (really!) :D
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    We had a similar discussion of this sort, a while back. And it is true that high quality experience can get you inside of the 15% ceiling with 'pro-sumer' gear.The difference being the amount of WORK it takes to get it there.I get there every day.But thats just me.I didnt have a great big budget when I put together my modest little studio but I wanted to get the best sound I could get without spending a lot on pedigrees.Sure, I coulda bought a side-car sized Neve and a DAW with pro-tools and learned to use it.A couple of good mics and a compressor and that would have been it.I would have had to learn to work an entirely different way than what I knew.So I went for a set-up where I could do large numbers of tracks all at once should I choose to.I went for a format that would allow me to use my skills as they were.I shopped a lot and bought things I knew worked decently.I bought Ghost over other boards because for the buck its the best mid-sized console there is...IMHO.I did NOT consider Mackie,Behringer,or any other of these types.My second choices being Hill Audio,Tascam,Allen & Heath, that sort of thing.What most beginners dont realize is a used board of these last mentioned types will sound so much better than the Mackies or the B..b.b...other.....and they dont have a lot of weak spots.A big old Yamaha, sounds 100% better than these also and the mic pres are as good as most of your $1000 outboard stuff.How many guys do you hear say they like their Mackie except the eq sucks, or the pres are edgy, or theres crosstalk....Shop....Compare....Learn......
    My studio is comprised of stuff thats really nothing special but it all works well together and its got ME which is worth a lot more than pedigreed gear.
    Kurt has some roughs of the latest tracks ...perhaps he'll share with everyone....
    My computer takes about a hour to download anything...not the computer but we live in almost no cyber-ville...so its a slow connection.

    And even though it was once suggested on another thread that I was a non-pro wanna-be, I say....been there done that...happy where i am now! :eek:
  10. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    I guess I get to play devils advocate now!!
    I'm reading these posts,and I'm reminded of kurt's post "are we witnessing the death throes of the commercial studio?"
    I would argue that these Prosumer studios could be quite competitive even with the big guys, given the right talent.
    A poor engineer makes poor recordings. A great engineer makes great recordings!

    I will miss the idea that one day I will work in or own a multi-million dollar studio,(I have always been one to set my goals high)but in lieu of that dream comes the realization that a great sounding recording is the bottom line, and that means with the price point of recordings already set by the big guys, it is possible that the smaller studios could make a much better R.O.I than the big guys.

    What do you think??
  11. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member


    I think a pro uses tools that make his job easier.

    In a related story, this weekend my Dad and I were doing some repair work at my house. We had to replace a couple of doors that had taken a few "ladder hits". Hanging doors is a PITA because they never fit exactly right, trim is always required. The only thing we had to trim the doors down was a router. A table saw would've probably been the best choice but we still made it work with the router. It sucked doing it but in the end, everything worked well.

    My Dad's a pretty handy guy and we've built all sortsa stuff over the years. With the router, I would've ^#$%ed the door up something stupid. He made it work like a charm.

    So, it wasn't down to the tools so much as it was the operator. Even with inappropriate tools, my Dad did a good job. With the right tools for him, he would've done a good job, only faster.

    Heck, I bet there's some guy out there who could've done a great job with the router.
  12. Guest

    I think Nate nailed it. A great carpenter could build a house with only unpowered hand tools, but it would take a lot longer and be far more labor intensive.

    Anyway, on a tangent, the ironic situation found in most lower level studios is not the total lack of quality gear, but the "interesting" interfacing of quality and "junk". How many out there have a $2000 compressor hooked up to a $50 patchbay with Hosa cables? Or how about a $2000 mic going into a $2000 preamp and being monitored by the singer through a $50 headphone preamp?

    I say this not as a snob - i've still got a few similar ironies like that in my own studio!
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I never owned a multi million dollar studio but I had one that had well over $100,000 into it.. It ain't all it's cracked up to be,, or at least it wasn't all I had thought it would be. It's a lot of maintenance, long hours, expense and tax's.. I am much happier now in my home studio but glad for the experience. It helped me find my perspective. The one thing I miss is the nice acoustic spaces.. Those are tools too, and damned hard to find substitutes for..
    Nope never used it! Never heard it! I don't know nothin' about it.. It could be the best thing since sliced bacon! (really!) :D
  14. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member


    Sheesh, that was _exactly_ me from the description to the dollar amount. I offloaded a shitload of Hosa snakes, dbx patchbays and an O2r that had been sitting here for donkey's ears. Even the preamp thing...ironic to run a VoxBox through the shitty Rolls cassette tape sized headphone box (although that comes in handy as a "click box" for drummers on live gigs).
  15. Guest

    I suspected I wasn't alone, Nate... ;)
  16. mixopenta

    mixopenta Guest

    Hmm, patchbays are dangerous gadgets. I do not dare telling you for how long I was convinced that I didn't have the talent nor the right gear to make decent recordings until I trashed the Patchbays. :eek: Nowadays I'd rather crawl around in dark corners connecting things than use $50 PB's.
  17. davemc

    davemc Guest

    A friend brought in a recording done locally. The Mix is ok, the band sounds great. Its just a little thin. He asked could I add some more body to it, I tried but I really could not add what was not there. I am pretty sure it was a mackie/adat combo.

    Being thinner does not stop it from being a good song. Sonically it sounds very demo like. Although have you guys listened to the radio lately :D

    When I stopped trying for the cheapest possible product and started looking for the best possible product(within reason). My recordings have come a long way, so yes I believe you do need a certain level of gear to get a certain level of sound. Although I worked on my craft many years before I got the better tools, so it does have to go hand in hand.

    The advice I give friends at home now a days is to buy a one good pre and one reasonable mic. As most things are tracked one at a time at home at least that can help.
  18. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    I have to agree that dark corners and crawling around under consoles is better than $50 PBs. I crushed my PBs with a hammer. It felt great.

    I dont know if it is the gear or what but no one has the preamps I do around here and I find that "small" is the best way to compare my studios sound to others around here. I know that they are using mackie pres and peavey pres. All the recording that happen in this town just dont have the low lows or the really sparkly highs. And I have looked at some of these mixes on a analyzer and there are strange looking roll offs in these areas. I dont know if people are using low and hi pass filters on the overall mix, but that is what it sounds and looks like. I use a focusrite red 1, avalon 737 and a dan alexander neve pre. BTW a 57 into a neve IS a magical combo. Esp on guitars and snare drums. I always take a flat(no eq, no comp, faders at zero) recording home to see what is on tape. The first thing that stood out, after getting good pres, is the sonic range. Fullness, body, crispy. Things I used to subtley eq in, were already there. But dont get me wrong, I believe all the way that the song makes the recording. I think the fastest way to get more pro sounding clarity and definition is to work with the arrangement. If you want to hear a tom fill better, pull some guitars out of the way for it... Bruce Hornsby is great at pop arrangements, Stevie Wonder is the master, IMO. Gear is cool, music is cooler.
  19. kierankelly

    kierankelly Guest


    When I stopped trying for the cheapest possible product and started looking for the best possible product(within reason). My recordings have come a long way, so yes I believe you do need a certain level of gear to get a certain level of sound. Although I worked on my craft many years before I got the better tools, so it does have to go hand in hand.

    great point dave, Did you listen to the two audio links ?
    The guy did a great job with limited resorces, but even still there is a differance (the midrange is always where I find the difference ) . I find it to always be the 80%-20% to 20%-80% . You get 80% of the quality for 20% of the cost .
    The beauty is in the finer details .

    By the way I am not some big studio snob . I record on pro tools TDM and LE(portable) with a modest mic locker and a demeter vtmp 2b or sytek .

    but it was an enjoyable recording either way


    (we are still doing the copy for our website )
  20. route909

    route909 Guest

    You listened to my choir recordings? It was 1/60 the cost of the expensive one... I don´t think my md choir recording is really up to par - usually when I bring my 24 bit hardware it sounds miles better. I just wanted to give a radical example :) Take care!


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